What Are Indoor Air Quality Monitors?
Poor indoor air quality is recognized as one of the most serious health risks facing Americans. After all, Americans are indoors at home, school and work about 90% of their time, and the indoor concentration of pollutants is typically two to five times the levels found outdoors. Recent research has found that approximately 96% of American homes have at least one indoor air quality problem and that as many as 90% have multiple issues that can cause and exacerbate a wide range of health problems. This awareness has led to more sophisticated indoor air quality monitors, which can inform you about the potential pollutants and contaminants that are accumulating in your home.
Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Indoor air quality monitors are not a new invention. In fact, the first carbon monoxide detector was developed way back in 1925 and used to protect people working in manholes. In 1969, the first smoke detector for residential use was introduced, and it would serve as the predecessor to the modern home carbon monoxide alarm. Carbon monoxide has long been recognized for how dangerous it is to human health at elevated levels, and in most jurisdictions, detectors are now required by code. If you have a new gas furnace installed, for example, you must also have one or more carbon monoxide detectors installed.
Multi-Sensor Indoor Air Quality Monitors
Carbon monoxide detectors generally detect just CO, and units that can detect CO and smoke are relatively common as well. The modern indoor air quality detector, however, is much more ambitious in scope. It aims to detect a wide range of pollutants and contaminants that can undermine the indoor air quality in your home. Some IAQ monitors are modular in that you can plug in various sensors as needed, which is rather convenient when a new sensor becomes available or there was simply an oversight in your product selection process. Nevertheless, many of the IAQ monitors currently on the market are not modular, and it is important to know which sensors are present prior to making the purchase.
Temperature and Humidity
Most people think of temperature and humidity in terms of comfort and not indoor air quality, but they very much affect the balance of your indoor space. Temperature and humidity levels that are regularly outside the ideal range can irritate your eyes, nose and throat. They can exacerbate and even lead to allergies and allergy-like symptoms. Excess moisture in the air can lead to mold, and mold spores can destabilize your indoor air quality long before you can smell or see the mold. Another benefit of monitoring temperature and humidity in tandem is that it can tip you off to various insulation and ventilation problems. Since all modern homes need a thermostat, many of the smart thermostats on the market also track humidity and various other IAQ categories discussed in the upcoming sections.
Particulate matter is a combination of particles and droplets that are suspended in the air. Tracking PM levels is one of the core components of understanding air pollution. We inhale these particulates, and at high enough levels, they can cause shortness of breath and allergy-like symptoms in otherwise healthy people. They can exacerbate the symptoms of people with asthma and other respiratory conditions, and long-term exposure to high PM levels is recognized as a risk factor for heart disease and cancer.
Volatile Organic Compounds
VOCs are a type of gas often emitted from various substances found in our homes. Like high concentrations of particulate matter, these gases can have negative health effects both in the short and long term. The EPA warns that concentrations of VOCs are often 10 times higher than outdoor concentrations. While VOC detection is important, it is also one of the aspects of indoor air quality where you have the greatest amount of control. Avoid products, including furniture, that produce significant off-gassing. Do not burn fuels without adequate ventilation and ensure that all construction materials are well-sealed and preferably stored outside of the primary living area.
Radon is now recognized as the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers in the United States. It is an odorless and colorless gas that is found in the earth and can seep up into our homes. The creation of radon is a naturally occurring process. That means that a home can be radon-free one year and have a radon problem the next. Therefore, industry experts recommend radon testing at least every several years. Real-time monitoring of radon is much more convenient than traditional charcoal-based testing. Nevertheless, real-time radon testing for the home is a relatively new innovation. As of this writing, few IAQ monitors on the market provide this feature, but that should change in the next several years.
CO2 is a natural byproduct of human life. While high levels of CO2 were once considered benign, they are now known to affect cognitive function in the short term. It is very easy for CO2 to accumulate in a home as people breathe, and high levels are often an indication of inadequate ventilation.
Data Collection, Reporting and Alerts
The classic carbon monoxide monitor, for instance, simply detects CO in real-time and sets off an alarm at a particular threshold. Many modern IAQ monitors are much more sophisticated. They not only track IAQ data in real-time but collect it and upload it to the cloud. As the data grows, it can be analyzed, and reports can be created. Patterns can be identified that provide useful context to your IAQ problems. It is also possible to receive alerts and notifications via your smartphone and other devices.
Outdoor Air Quality Monitoring
Without a whole-home air filtration system, the pollution levels found in your home will never be better than the pollution levels found outside your home. Pollution in your community, therefore, provides invaluable context. For this reason, many of the most advanced residential IAQ monitoring systems have both external and internal sensors. This allows your indoor air quality to be fully assessed and can help you to make decisions about potential air purification upgrades for your home.
Selecting an Indoor Air Quality Monitor
If you have particular health concerns, then your first step should be to discuss them with your doctor. He or she can provide invaluable insight that will inform your purchasing decision. You should also consult with a local indoor air quality expert. With the fast evolution of the technology, this can be a tricky time to invest in it, and a local expert will also have insight into your particular concerns.
Your Indoor Air Quality Experts in Utah
One Stop Heating and Air Conditioning is proud to serve Sandy and the surrounding areas. Our company is BBB-accredited and EPA certified. Our technicians are fully licensed, and you can count on us to install and maintain IAQ monitors and whole-home air purification and humification systems in addition to cleaning your ducts. We also install, repair, and maintain all manner of heating and cooling systems.
Call us today or contact us online to learn more about our services and to schedule an appointment.
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